Cautions on ABC’s Huge Mark Meadows Scoop

For more than six months, access journalists in DC have been trying to confirm how much Mark Meadows cooperated with Jack Smith.

Today, ABC has a huge scoop reporting that Meadows testified at least three times, one time — before a grand jury — with immunity.

Former President Donald Trump’s final chief of staff in the White House, Mark Meadows, has spoken with special counsel Jack Smith’s team at least three times this year, including once before a federal grand jury, which came only after Smith granted Meadows immunity to testify under oath, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Click through to read the details — ABC has earned the clicks.

But I caution against concluding too much about what the testimony means. Most importantly, there’s no hint that Meadows has flipped. Meadows has testified (which a past ABC scoop made clear). But giving immunized testimony is not flipping, and the two ABC stories raise far more questions about the story Meadows has told.

I say that for several reasons. First, ABC doesn’t describe the dates for any of his interviews. I’ll return to that, but it’s important that ABC doesn’t reveal whether Meadows’ testimony to Jack Smith precedes or postdates the Georgia indictment and subsequent failure to get the Georgia indictment removed to Federal courts. An earlier big ABC scoop describes April grand jury testimony, and it’s not clear that this would be a different time frame or grand jury appearance.

I offer cautions, as well, because virtually all of ABC’s reporting says that Meadows was asked not about what Trump did on a given day, but whether Meadows believed what Meadows had said publicly. Here’s an example.

Sources told ABC News that Smith’s investigators were keenly interested in questioning Meadows about election-related conversations he had with Trump during his final months in office, and whether Meadows actually believed some of the claims he included in a book he published after Trump left office — a book that promised to “correct the record” on Trump.

Again, click through to see how much of the rest is of the same sort.

As I noted in my post on that prior big ABC scoop, there are still loads of details — especially about January 6 — missing from the public timeline that Meadows surely knows.

There’s a lot that’s missing here — most notably Meadows’ coordination with Congress and any efforts to coordinate with Mike Flynn and Roger Stone’s efforts more closely tied to the insurrection and abandoned efforts to deploy the National Guard to protect Trump’s mob as it walked to congress. Unless those actions get added to charges quickly, Meadows will be able to argue, in Georgia, that his actions complied with federal law without having to address them. If and when they do get charged in DC, I’m sure Meadows’ attorneys hope, his criminal exposure in Georgia will be resolved.

Importantly, that earlier ABC scoop served to signal co-conspirators how Meadows changed his testimony after prosecutors obtained proof his claims about his ghost-writers — the same ghost-writers whose book remains at the center of ABC’s scoop! — were proven wrong by further evidence.

That story suggested Meadows was only going to be as truthful as evidence presented to him required him to be.

And this story is of the same type. It describes how, as he did in the stolen documents case, Meadows said he didn’t believe what he wrote when it was legally necessary.

Finally, that post also lays out that the narrative told in the DC indictment, while useful for Jack Smith, is different than the narrative told by Fani Willis, where Mark Meadows has not given cooperative testimony. The right column (his story to Jack Smith) in this table is helpful for Jack Smith, but probably not true; the left column (where he didn’t cooperate) is more damning.

Meadows team recites the alleged Georgia acts as Judge Jones has characterized them on page 19 and then directly quotes the references to Meadows in the federal indictment on page 26. It helps to read them a table together:

There’s an arc here. The early acts in both indictments might be deemed legal information gathering. After that, in early December, Meadows takes two actions, one alleged in Georgia and the other federally, both of which put him clearly in the role of a conspirator, neither of which explicitly involves Trump as charged in the Georgia indictment. Meadows:

  • Asks Johnny McEntee for a memo on how to obstruct the vote certification
  • Orders the campaign to ensure someone is coordinating the fake electors

The events on December 22 and 23, across the two indictments, are telling. Meadows flies to Georgia and, per the Georgia indictment, attempts to but fails to access restricted areas. Then he flies back to DC and, per the federal indictment, tells Trump everything is being done diligently. Then Meadows arranges and participates in another call. Both in a tweet on December 22 and a call on December 23, Trump pressures Georgia officials again. For DOJ’s purposes, the Tweet is going to be more important, whereas for Georgia’s purposes, the call is more important. But with regards his argument for removal and dismissal, Meadows would argue that he used his close access to advise Trump that Georgia was proceeding diligently.

On December 27, Meadows calls and offers to use campaign funds to ensure the signature validation is done by January 6. This was not Meadows arranging a call so Trump could make the offer himself, it was Meadows doing it himself, likely on behalf of Trump, doing something for the campaign, not the country.

On January 2, Meadows participates in the Raffensperger call, first setting it up then intervening to try to find agreement, but then ultimately pressuring state officials not so much to just give Trump the votes he needs, which was Trump’s ask, but to turn over state data.

Meadows: Mr. President. This is Mark. It sounds like we’ve got two different sides agreeing that we can look at these areas ands I assume that we can do that within the next 24 to 48 hours to go ahead and get that reconciled so that we can look at the two claims and making sure that we get the access to the secretary of state’s data to either validate or invalidate the claims that have been made. Is that correct?

Germany: No, that’s not what I said. I’m happy to have our lawyers sit down with Kurt and the lawyers on that side and explain to my him, here’s, based on what we’ve looked at so far, here’s how we know this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.

Meadows: So what you’re saying, Ryan, let me let me make sure … so what you’re saying is you really don’t want to give access to the data. You just want to make another case on why the lawsuit is wrong?

Meadows was pressuring a Georgia official, sure, but to do something other than what Trump was pressuring Raffensperger to do. His single lie (he was charged for lying on the call separately from the RICO charge), one Willis might prove by pointing to the overt act from the federal indictment on December 3, when Jason Miller told Meadows that the number of dead voters was not 10,000, but twelve, is his promise that Georgia’s investigation has not found all the dead voters.

I can tell you say they were only two dead people who would vote. I can promise you there were more than that. And that may be what your investigation shows, but I can promise you there were more than that.

But even there, two is not twelve. Meadows will be able to challenge the claim that he lied, as opposed to facilitated, as Chief of Staff, Trump’s lies.

Finally, in an overt act not included in the Georgia indictment, Meadows is among the people on January 6 who (the federal indictment alleges) attempted to convince Trump to call off the mob.

There’s a lot that’s missing here — most notably Meadows’ coordination with Congress and any efforts to coordinate with Mike Flynn and Roger Stone’s efforts more closely tied to the insurrection and abandoned efforts to deploy the National Guard to protect Trump’s mob as it walked to congress. Unless those actions get added to charges quickly, Meadows will be able to argue, in Georgia, that his actions complied with federal law without having to address them. If and when they do get charged in DC, I’m sure Meadows’ attorneys hope, his criminal exposure in Georgia will be resolved.

Of what’s included here, those early December actions — the instruction to Johnny McEntee to find some way to obstruct the January 6 vote certification and the order that someone coordinate fake electors — are most damning. That, plus the offer to use campaign funds to accelerate the signature match, all involve doing campaign work in his role as Chief of Staff. For the federal actions, Jack Smith might just slap Meadows with a Hatch Act charge and end the removal question — but that might not help him, Jack Smith, make his case, because several parts of his indictment rely on exchanges Meadows had privately with Trump, and Meadows is a better witness if he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Aside from those, Meadows might argue — indeed, his lawyers may well have argued to Jack Smith to avoid being named as a co-conspirator — that his efforts consistently entailed collecting data which he used to try to persuade the then-President, using his access as a close advisor, to adopt other methods to pursue his electoral challenges. Meadows’ lawyers may well have argued that several things marked his affirmative effort to leave the federally-charged conspiracies. In this removal proceeding, I expect Meadows will argue that his actions on the Raffensperger call were an attempt, like several others, to collect more data to use his close access as an advisor to better persuade the then-President to drop the means by which he was challenging the vote outcome.

The point being, that before Fani Willis indicted Mark Meadows, Meadows had found a story that was going to work. And now, that story doesn’t work anymore.

Which is why the timing of Meadows’ immunized testimony to a grand jury and the timing of this scoop matters. His January 6 testimony seems to conflict with what Willis knows. This paragraph, from today’s big ABC scoop, is even less credible than stuff in the indictments.

However, according to what Meadows told investigators, Trump seemed to grow increasingly concerned as he learned more about what was transpiring at the Capitol, and Trump was visibly shaken when he heard that someone had been shot there, sources said.

If the two versions of Meadows story have started to obviously conflict, he’s may be doing some soul searching about whether he wants to go the way of Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro and Jenna Ellis, who sent 350 texts with Meadows.

And before he does that soul searching, he’s going to want to signal to others what he has said, to test how valuable it is for him to continue to say it.

53 replies
  1. Pleitter says:

    Thanks. Great insight on the timing which also explains why Meadows has has not pled guilty in GA yet.

    • dadidoc1 says:

      Special Prosecutor Jack Smith can’t grant Mark Meadows immunity for the Georgia state charges, but if Meadows has good legal counsel, he should try to cut a plea deal with Fani Willis while he still can.

  2. Badger Robert says:

    ‘Wouldn’t there be exceptions to the grant of immunity, such as perjury? Would there be a stipulation that in order for immunity to be sustained Meadows would have to testify truthfully?

    • Rugger_9 says:

      SC Smith is too smart for a blanket immunity, especially considering how many things Meadows did for Defendant-1. Really, perhaps only Roger Stone could give Meadows a run for his money regarding political rodent abuse sleaze.

      If not blanket, then the details tied to the immunity deal become important and no one has said anything, neither Meadows nor OSC.

  3. BobBobCon says:

    “For more than six months, access journalists in DC have been trying to confirm how much Mark Meadows cooperated with Jack Smith”

    It’s pretty hilarious how Philip Rucker’s Washington Post team got stiffed.

    Rucker’s book about the final days of the Trump White House was blatantly pushing the POV of Meadows, which Rucker could only have gotten from Meadows or someone authorized to speak on his behalf. All of that time showing his belly, and got nothing of value for it.

  4. Rugger_9 says:

    Well, that’s why I had the qualifiers in the prior post. Meadows in some ways has too much to lose because as the others are going to discover there is no way to rejoin the cult when committing such apostasy. Meadows is not liked by anyone and being a rat as well is not a good look for a politician with ambitions.

    It will be interesting to see what Cassidy has to say. It will also be interesting to see if SC Smith’s team issues any denials about the ABC or modifies their indictments in DC or SDFL. I also find it interesting that (so far) DA Willis hasn’t commented on someone who’s probably the #2 fish to catch.

    • RobertS721 says:

      Meadows is only facing a single charge in addition to RICO.

      There is a whole gang of people who are much more enmeshed in the scheme. If anything, Meadows looks a lot more like a potential cooperating witness than a focus of the prosecution.

  5. flounder says:

    Excellent analysis and summary. As soon as I read the ABC story it gave me vibes of self serving bullshit and Mark Meadows balancing this self serving bs atop thousands of texts and emails indicating Meadows was just fine stopping the 1/6 count and installing Trump. Meadows flipping is like Manafort redux imho.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Sounds like Meadows continues to play a dangerous game. He seems like a true believer, which would make him want to avoid flipping. Admitting only to what he thinks the prosecution already knows is an old gambit. It’s often used in business negotiations, too. But it depends on good intelligence. Not sure Meadows has that. Being too coy also makes it easy to get caught in a lie, which would be another felony. And now that several Trump attorneys have pled out, he’s in even more danger of admitting or denying the wrong things.

    • CaptainCondorcet says:

      But that perjury felony is also pardonable. And true believers, if that is what Meadows is, still think Trump will win this. Even accepting a more cynical outlook, it’s likely that as a former MoC, any Republican candidate with a shot at being the replacement would pardon him if elected

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Has Mark Meadows ever been a true believer in anything? His reputation in congress was as an affable yes-man without strongly held principles or convictions. His appeal for Trump seemed to lie in that exact malleability. Unlike Kevin McCarthy, forced to fall on the sword of his initial condemnation of Trump re: J6, Meadows never held a sword to begin with.

        All he’s ever done is work the refs on behalf of whoever is paying him. This ABC “bombshell” seems like more of the same–Meadows’ way of signaling to co-defendants and potential witnesses the path he’s been working out with DOJ.

  7. Fiendish Thingy says:

    Perhaps Hutchinson’s testimony, or that of Corcoran or another WH lawyer, will shed light on whether Meadows was enabling Trump’s obstruction or trying to dissuade him from it?

  8. David F. Snyder says:

    Who are these “sources familiar with the matter” that gave this scoop to ABC one wonders. I presume the source is not within the DOJ. But what of folks with ulterior motives, axes to grind, etc. What’s in it for them? Marcy’s final lines hint (testing the waters, so to speak) that the source must be within the Meadows camp, most likely with approval from Meadows. But maybe there’s also another spin on this info, waiting to be made?

    • Overshire says:

      That was my first thought, too.
      Given that SCO has been leak-tight, and they say they’ve turned over all the discovery, including GJ transcripts, how likely is it that this “scoop” came from TFG’s legal team, rather than Meadows’? The only benefit to Meadows I can see would be signaling to the old boss that he may be talking when legally forced, but he hasn’t turned rat (yet,) and surely there are easier ways to accomplish that without involving ABC. But Team Trump may find it useful to keep the other minions informed as to the current state of the agreed “facts.” I didn’t see anything in the story that would narrow the possible sources down to one or the other.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        The person best served by this is Meadows himself. For (im)plausible deniability reasons, I’m guessing he sourced it through a cut-out “with knowledge of the subject.”

    • RitaRita says:

      The timing of the ABC revelation is interesting – right after plea deals of the 3 lawyers in Georgia.

  9. Thomas Paine says:

    The Meadows problem for prosecutors is, his story has been all over the place. In his past he has been known for being deliberately ambiguous – if not disingenuous. In plain English, Meadows can be a liar when under oath.

    Joyce Vance thinks this may only be about whether Trump admitted to anyone be that he lost the 2020 election. Smith’s interest in Meadows may simply be to know what he will say as a defense witness in any upcoming trial about Trump’s admissions in confidence and Trump’s state of mind.

  10. MWFfromSAT says:

    I wonder if Mark Meadows is planning on writing another book, a sequel perhaps,
    titled “If I Did It…”

  11. Overt_Act says:

    Meadows isn’t the only one trying to have it both ways. After pleading guilty last Thursday, Powell got online over the weekend and repudiated her admission of guilt.

    On her social media accounts, Powell has continued to push claims that the 2020 election was rigged and that prosecutors in Georgia who brought the criminal case against her are politically motivated. The newsletter published by her dark money group has shared articles arguing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis “extorted” her guilty plea.

    The arguments contract Powell’s claims in her Thursday plea hearing, where she agreed her plea was “voluntary” and the charges had “a sufficient factual basis.”

    IANAL, so I would like to hear from those more experienced what this means as far as Powell’s plea bargain is concerned. Could Willis go back to court and say the deal is off? If Powell testifies, how does this impact her credibility? Does it help the prosecution or the defense? I would assume she has voided her utility to Willis, but I’m not sure.
    This is even weirder given how Trump vehemently disavowed her over that same weekend, pulling a typical 180 and almost saying he didn’t know who she was. Her about face has also been ignored by the pundit class, who are joyfully speculating on how the ongoing co-defendant flips will sink Trump’s defense. They all have egg on their faces at this point given what she said and their seeming ignorance of it.
    My cynicism about the the plea deals and fly-weight sentences handed out to the Jan 6th insurrectionists is now completely validated. Not one of them was truly repentant, and when the next round of violence comes many of them will be in the thick of it. The courts and judicial system have a deep right wing bias and there is no accountability for lawbreakers on the right. The lack of meaningful consequence signals a green light for continued violent extremism.

    • Dustbowl Observer says:

      Powell is posturing to keep the money flowing. She can always re-enter a not-guilty plea, which she has not done. And as far as extortion is concerned, her statement that there were no other promises or threats other than what is in the document, is in fact a statement that there were none.

      • timbozone says:

        Prior to when can she switch it up and “re-enter” a not-guilty plea? Prior to sentencing? Seriously, there’s some instant cut-off point where you cannot re-enter a plea. She’s past that point now—true/not true?

        • bmaz says:

          I don’t know specifically here, but generally, once a plea is formally ent4ered and accepted on the record, it is done.

    • montysep says:

      The DailyKos story source is a BusinessInsider story. Which in turn relies on Powell’s dark money groups newsletter “sharing” articles.

      “The newsletter published by her dark-money group has shared articles arguing the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, “extorted” her guilty plea.”

      This is all so far removed from Powell herself it hardly supports the claim that Powell is walking back anything. And we’ve already got people saying the Judge should bring her back in front to explain her retractions or ask if she stands by her guilty plea. Please stop giving junk reporting any oxygen.

  12. Yves Capdeboscq says:

    Didn’t Meadows smash his phone (well, it fell and a car ran over it, by chance) so that he wouldn’t have to share anything? Prosecutors are used to working with unsavoury characters, that’s the job, and make immunity decisions with people they have no reason to trust. I imagine they have no illusions on his behalf.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      ABC apparently used Trump campaign sources for their story, and FWIW I do not see any movement in GA or DC with respect to Meadows being dropped (in GA) or added (in DC) to complaints. Keep in mind the latter option would be kept separate from Defendant-1 to keep D-1’s trial on track.

      So, the sourcing might be problematic.

    • subtropolis says:

      I’ve never seen a claim that he’d destroyed the mobile, only that he’d replaced it. And my assumption has been, from the beginning, that it was due to his boss having demanded that Meadows hand it over. Because evidence. Trump has been using other people’s phones for a very long time.

      Now, Meadows was also rigorously burning paperwork in his fireplace, so it’s certainly possible that he’d rid himself of the mobile on his own initiative. But i’m fairly confident that we’ll be seeing such a revelation about his device when Meadows testifies.

  13. Joberly1954 says:

    This may be the second time that Meadows has avoided a federal indictment for his actions leading up to January 6. His attorney, George Terwilliger III, was able to convince the US Attorney for DC, Matthew Graves in June 2022, not to prosecute Meadows for contempt of Congress charges that the House of Representatives had voted back in December 2021.

    • DoubleThumbedFist says:

      Does the DC USA still have the option of prosecuting Meadows for that? For how long? Did the referral and possibly the DOJ’s option to prosecute expire with the 117th Congress at the start of January 2023?

  14. DoubleThumbedFist says:

    The reporting I’ve seen says that only Meadows’ testimony is immunized, can’t be used against him in Federal prosecutions, eg:

    The reported testimony itself seems to be only self-serving assertions that Meadows told Trump throughout the post-election period that Trump had lost, that the various lawsuits challenging the election had no evidence, that Meadows never believed any of the public statements (including his own) that the election was stolen. His immunized testimony even includes vouching for Trump never saying anything to contradict Trump’s asserted belief that the election was stolen.

    So while it’s immunized testimony, I don’t see how any of it could have been used against Meadows at all, since it all seems exonerating. Except perhaps if Meadows’ public statements (including his book) are used as evidence he was an active coconspirator in violation of laws, so immunizing his confession that he knew those were lies does spare him from that. Meadows confirming Trump’s asserted true belief that the election was stolen supports Trump.

    The net result looks like no gain for Smith against either Meadows or Trump, and indeed possibly gain for Trump, and possibly gain for Meadows. Why bother granting it if that’s all Smith got, nothing but a possible loss, even if it’s not much of a loss? There would have to be unreported testimony that’s worth immunizing, more than that possible loss is worth.

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